Split pea soup was a regular in the rotation at our house when I was growing up. My mom always made it with a ham bone, just to wring the last bit of value and flavor from a leftover before throwing it away. Smart cooks know that dried beans and pulses are the way to keep the food budget in line. To a hungry family, the thick, green soup was a comforting and familiar favorite, and an excuse to crush a handful of saltines over our dinner.
Now, I make my split pea soup without the bone, and I add plenty of vegetables. My easy Split Pea Soup With Sweet Potato and Kale is just as comforting and thrifty as the one I grew up eating.
Split peas are an essential pantry item for the budget-conscious. A one-pound bag of split peas contains about 2 cups, enough to make two batches of this soup, and costs about $1. This meatless meal can be a real money-saver.
The absolutely genius twist to the split pea is that it’s split. The skins of the dried peas have been removed, and the soft, creamy insides split in two, making the split pea much quicker to cook than a whole bean. You don’t need to soak these, although soaking will cut the cooking time a bit. Like all beans, cooking times and the amount of water needed are tied to the freshness of the peas. An older crop will take longer to cook than the most recent one.
Split peas come in both green and yellow varieties — it’s just a matter of preference which you use. In this soup, the sweet potato cubes are added with the peas, allowing them to soften to the point of melting into the soup, giving it a hint of orange throughout. Chopped kale goes in for the last 15 minutes, to cook until very tender.
Fresh dill and a dollop (or swirl) of plain yogurt give the thick soup a fresh, herbal note and a tangy counterpoint.
If you want to crumble saltines over it, it’s up to you.
Robin Asbell is a cooking instructor and author of “Big Vegan” and “Plant-Based Meats.” Find her at robinasbell.com.